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The Mystery of Peace – A Reflection

December 24, 2020
Carrollton Presbyterian Church – Outdoor Caroling

In his book Raids on the Unspeakable, Thomas Merton reflected on the birth narrative of Jesus as proclaimed in Luke’s gospel. In the special and heavenly light which shines around the coming of the Word into the world, all ordinary things are transfigured. In the mystery of Peace which is proclaimed to a world that cannot believe in peace, a world of suspicion, hatred and distrust, even the rejection of the Prince of Peace takes on something of the color and atmosphere of peace. (pp. 65-66) I have been reflecting on our response to Christmas in the midst of a pandemic and political/societal turmoil where peace seems to be the last thing people are focusing on. These are indeed pretty dark times for so many. These are times of exhaustion and depression; of hatred, mistrust, and anger; of loneliness and fear.

In the quiet time that I have been able to carve out in a schedule that is often chaotic, Spirit has been speaking to me. My sermons for the rest of the year are recorded along with Christmas Eve’s Lessons and Carols. It is a surreal time in a sense now that the messages have been recorded and yet the events are still unfolding. As Merton said, all ordinary things are transfigured. I am still wrapping my head and my heart around that phrase as I see so many of the above phrases he used to describe a world that cannot believe in peace. As we journey together towards the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, I am seriously looking for a hope that is not surface but is rather deep and real.

If the world is so busy rejecting the Prince of Peace, perhaps that does at least acknowledge the existence of that peace. The world doesn’t really know how to define peace. When I was in Strategic Air Command (the USAF’s nuclear bomber and missile command that stood ready to deploy and unleash a nuclear Armageddon far greater than Hiroshima and Nagasaki) their motto was Peace is Our Profession. Deterrence through the stockpiling of enough nuclear weapons to blow the world up countless times was a way to peace? Even as a Chaplain Candidate, Second Lieutenant I recognized the absurdity of that statement.

As I got to know pilots and aircrew (retired and active) who flew those missions, I came to realize that they were the last ones who wanted the “balloon” to go up and the order given to blow targets to oblivion and come back to bases that would be devoid of any life, including their families, because of the nuclear retaliation by the USSR. Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) was insane and as they looked at that mission, they truly realized the value of peace and the insanity of their mission. Why they continued to serve is a philosophical question for another day.

Perhaps in the midst of this current insanity we can see the hope, the color, and the atmosphere of peace. Truly that is my hope and my desire as we journey together into the future and as we commemorate the birth of the Prince of Peace. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

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